Dukes Creek, Georgia

Fly Fishing Travel

It’s hard to talk about fly fishing in Georgia without mentioning Dukes Creek, it was named one of the top 100 trout streams in the United States by TU.   Dukes Creek is a unique fishery because it’s Catch and Release fishing inside of an in a state park, and they have large Browns and Rainbow trout swimming in the creek.  Some fish excess of 26 inches have been caught in this small creek,  fish of 12 to 20 inches are common.

Flowing from the northwest to the southeast, 4.5 miles of Dukes Creek runs through the Smithgall Woods state park.  The creek is not as big as some others in Georgia and is a bit narrow and tight for casting.  A shorter stout fly rod would be a good choice to fish this creek.  I was using a 9 foot, 5 weight when I was there and was wishing I had my 8′ rod along; a 6 weight would not be a bad idea either.  It can also be brushy in some spots, giving you the opportunity to lose many flies in the trees.

You can only fish Dukes Creek by reservation on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday, you can call ahead to the Smithgall Woods State Park office and make reservations ahead of time.  It was my understanding that they can be booked up for months in advance on the weekends. Also, you can fish the other days if you rent one of the cabins.  

It only cost $5 to park and fish, and you need to be there early otherwise, they may give your spot away to another fisherman.

When you get to the office, they will give you a fishing permit that has all the rules listed on it.  One of the rules you want to know ahead of time, it’s barbless hooks only!  You cannot even have a barbed hook in your possession, or you would risk a fine, and it’s rather steep.   They have a few flies in the office, but it’s not a great selection.

Dukes Creek Trout fishing permit

They will also give you a map of the park showing you where the river runs and some of the main landmarks and it features.  There is a relatively large chunk of private water just downstream the main office, and you can’t fish this section.  But there is a lot of other water to fish.

They do have a shuttle van that runs three times a day down to the lower section of the river, so you don’t have to walk.  The office will let you know what times the shuttle will run.  The shuttle driver will drop you off anywhere along the river and will even offer some suggestions.   When it’s time to pick you up, he will drive down the river beeping his horn to let you know that it’s time to go.   You will need to make your way back to the road, and he will pick you up.   If you don’t get there in time, you will have a long walk ahead of you.

Dukes Creek usually has two levels,  low and clear and high and muddy  When it’s low and clear you need to have long leaders 9-14-feet, and light tippet 5X, 6X or sometimes even 7X and fluorocarbon would also help.  You’ll also need to use small flies 18-24’s  Flies like Zebra Midges, WD-40s, Disco Midges, or Soft-Hackle Pheasant Tails are good choices.  If you need to use a strike indicator, keep it small, the New Zealand strike indicator is a good option.

When its high and muddy many people will turn around and go home because “The fish can’t see your fly in chocolate milk!”   But this can be prime time to catch a big fish.   This is when the big fish typically move out of the deep holes, where they usually sit and spread out into the areas that are low and wide to get out of the raging current that is now rushing through those deeper areas.

For leaders and flies, these conditions call for “big and bigger”! Heavy leaders 2x-0x and short like 7′ will work well.
Wooly buggers in black, white, purple or olive in size 2-6 are great. Muddler Minnows, Turkey leaches, baby rainbow trout patterns will work.  Use plenty of split shot about 8-12 inches from your fly to sink the fly in the fast water, or use a sinking leader or sink tip

More info on fishing Dukes Creek can be found here.

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